Thursday, March 31, 2011

Welcome Back, Baseball!

Oh, hello boys. It's so nice to see you again. It's been a while.

Oh, how I've missed watching you and your bloops, blasts, frozen ropes, seeing eyes, and dying quails. I've missed your sliders, changes, fireballs, and uncle Charlies.

I'm happy to see you take the mound, cover the gap, protect the line, turn two, and cover the bag. I'm happy to see you step in, protect the plate, work the count, beat the shift, hit and run, lay one down, and beat it out.

It's great when you don't miss it, get all of it, and put good wood on it (even if I hate that phrase). It's great when you set down the side, get them looking, and fool them.

I love your quality starts, holds, and saves. I love your squeeze plays, three-baggers, sacrifices, and taters. I love your rundowns, cannon shots, and web gems.

So, now that you're back at the ballpark, and back on my TV, I sincerely say "Welcome back; I've missed you; it's been a long winter."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Loves Me My Closers

Many baseball experts don't like the specialized role of a Closer. They say that the ninth inning is just another three outs, and really isn't all that much more special than any other inning. The Save, these people say, is really a silly stat that doesn't indicate anything, and any halfway decent relief pitcher should be able to take care of the ninth. Fair enough.

I, however, have a more romantic view of a Closer. I love how he comes into the ninth, ready to save the day -- or at least the game. He has to have a steel constitution and a fearless heart. He's alone and he has a very important job to do. If he blows it, he can't really call for backup. If he's on the road and blows it, game over...period. At home, he has a small chance that his mates can save his ass, but those mates are facing another motivated Closer. No wonder he comes out to rock and roll music. He'd come out on a white horse if there wasn't a risk it'd crap on the field.

Which explains why I love Joe Nathan so much (and Mariano Rivera, but I don't really want to admit that because he wears a certain NY on his cap). So when my Joe required ligament replacement surgery last year, I was very worried. I was worried about his recovery, I was worried about his age, and I was worried about his slider.

Joe, however, did not have time to worry. He was too busy recovering, rebuilding, and reloading. He arrived to camp ready to go having suffered no set-backs in his rehab, and he went right to work with re-learning his pitches. And, with only less than one week left in camp, he's still had no set-backs.

He's also still trying to find his slider. Aahh, that tricky slider. This is his out-pitch, a very important weapon in is arsenal. It would be nice if that slider comes back right away. Although, if I remember correctly, his slider is always the last pitch to come during camp. And it's not like he's not very good at throwing other pitches (I am absolutely in love with that curveball he drops in for a strike).

With that being said, I like that Matt Capps is on the team. At first I had this little jealous thing against him -- how dare he try to take Joe's job away. But since Gardy indicated that they were going with a "Joe for two days, Matt for one" plan, I was on board. My romantic notions of Closers notwithstanding, I'm really intrigued by this approach, regardless of injury histories or whatnot. Kind of like having a Senior Executive Principal Closer and a Vice Closer.

Certainly, Twins fans should be prepared to lower their expectations of Joe a bit. He is still rehabbing and recovering and rebuilding. And reloading. But, it's a long season, so if he's not "THE Joe Nathan" the first few weeks, fine. He will be soon enough. Eighty percent of "THE Joe Nathan" is still way better than many other Closers.

So, if Joe feels ready for Opening Day, he should pitch Opening Day, if needed. Even if his velocity is down a bit and his slider's not there yet. Because after all, it's only three outs -- any other inning. He's a smart pitcher; he'll be fine.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What's With All the Singing?

So, it seems that the Twins players are having some fun doing some commercials. We can tell they're having fun because they're signing. Singing is fun.

If you're here in Minnesota, you've probably already seen the "snipe hunt" commercial featuring the vocal stylings of Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and Jerry White.

If you want to see it, here's a link.

I gotta say, Jerry White sings pretty well. No comment on the other two.

And now, our great state wants you to spend your money traveling throughout it. And Joe Mauer sings about it. He's exactly as awkward as you'd imagine.

It's a good thing they're good at baseball.


Be sure to check out the Rumor Report over on From The Third Baseline. I write about the trade rumors around Kevin Slowey.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick Notes: Mar. 23, 2011

Starting Rotation

You've probably heard by now that Gardy determined that Scott Baker would occupy the final spot in the rotation and Kevin Slowey would start the year in the bull pen. This isn't terribly surprising; Baker was the Opening Day starter last season.

I still think I'd prefer to see Nick Blackburn in the bull pen with Slowey in the rotation. It makes more sense to me to have the Slowey, the strikeout pitcher, start in the first inning and to have Blackburn, the sinkerball pitcher, to be long relief. Also, when Blackburn first came up, he was a reliever, so he's used to it.

However, all this is pretty inconsequential. One of the starters is likely to get hurt or become ineffective. When that happens (of course, I hope it doesn't), it's good to know Slowey will be right there to slide in. And, from what I've read, he seems like he's got a pretty good attitude about it.


A Note to Mother Nature

Dear Ms. Nature:

Would it be all right if I called you Mother? Yes? Good.

Mother, remember last year, when Target Field was due to host its very first baseball game, and the national media was all worried and hand-wringy and all about the weather, and they all said that it was dumb to not put a roof on the stadium, but we knew it wouldn't make sense to put a retractable roof on such a beautiful facility, because the weather in Minnesota isn't really any worse than Chicago, and no one's clamoring to get roofs on those stadiums, so I begged you to show all those blowhards, because I just knew the ballpark was an absolute gem that didn't need a bunch of unnecessary bad press, and you obliged by giving Minneapolis absolutely glorious weather for a vast majority of the season?

Yeah, I remember that too. Could you do that again this year? And, could you hurry up and get started on that right away? Things aren't looking too promising right now; there are only 16 days until the first Twins home game.


Wally is Free

So, you may have heard that Wally the Beerman was acquitted of charges of selling alcohol to a minor. I'm thrilled for Wally.

Now, to be clear, I don't ever think it's cool to sell alcohol to minors. However, Wally has a terrific reputation spanning several years. He's a pro. I think a sting operation in the chaos of Target Field is a little unfair. I also think some big-headed hotshot decided to bring down a legend in order to feed his ego. Seems as if the jury saw it that way, too.

It's still unclear whether he will sell beer again at Target Field. I sure hope so. And if not, I hope he'll be all right with selling something else -- I just want him back. Although, "Wally the Ice Cream Man" doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?


Big Announcement

Remember a while ago, I gave a shout-out to a new network of sports blogs written by women called G-9 Sports? Well, they've since changed the name to Aerys Sports. They still have all the same great blogs (actually, more by now); they just changed the banner.

And, now for the announcement...

I'll be joining Erin and Katie on the From the Third Baseline blog as the Rumor Report writer. Be sure to check over there for Twins rumors.

Don't worry. I'll still keep up my regular nonsense here as well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

So Long, Pat-Pat

The big news on Sunday was when Pat Neshek tweeted that he was now a member of the San Diego Padres. It was pretty interesting to watch my Twitter feed blow up with remarks from stunned Twins fans and media members.

He was put on outright waivers on Friday and picked up by the Padres on Sunday. He still had one more minor-league option, but rather than just option him to AAA, the Twins put him on waivers. They did this to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, but Bill Smith indicated that the Twins aren't adding anyone right away. Kelsie Smith of the PiPress tweeted that this means that the Twins tried to trade him, couldn't, so they placed him on waivers. It's still kind of head-scratcher, though.

Pat is a local kid and a fan favorite. He gained a lot of popularity as soon as he broke into the big leagues with his funky pitching style and his approachability through his blog, Twitter, and Facebook. He had great promise in 2006 and 2007, but then was sidelined by Tommy John surgery in 2008 and missed all of 2009. He never really got his groove back in 2010, and looked absolutely out of gas by the end of the season. This spring, his velocity hasn't yet peaked where it should be, and it seems like his sharpness is still a work-in-progress.

He also may have fallen slightly out of favor with the Twins coaching staff and front office. In 2010, when he has having forearm soreness, he announced on Facebook his frustration with the Twins' medical staff for misdiagnosing his injury. However, as Phil Mackey from ESPN notes in his blog, if they were really upset, they wouldn't have re-signed him this off-season.

This may be a great opportunity for Pat. It's clear that he wouldn't have made the big club out of spring training; he may have a better chance for being in the major league bullpen with the Padres. Also, he'll have an advantage going to the National League and facing batters who aren't used to his delivery. I speak for Twins fans when I say that we wish him all the best of luck in San Diego. (Psst...the Padres are due to visit Target Field in June. Let's hope we get to see him then.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Utility Guys and Shoes

I was thinking about Nicky Punto today. Mostly because I was wearing the shoes I compared him to on Nick Punto Day last year. I was thinking I should get rid of those shoes -- they are wearing out, -- but the shoes I was going to replace them with broke. Literally broke. In half. Both of them.You can't get good replacements these days.

Which is also true of utility players, I guess. Although I'm not aware of the current crop of potential bench-infielders to have literally broken in half. That would be unfortunate. But I digress.

I loved Nick Punto as a utility guy. Yeah, I didn't love that he was making $4.5 million to be a utility guy. But that role was perfect for him. But he's a Cardinal now. A Cardinal with a hernia.

So, who will be the bench infielder for Gardy this year? Take your pick of Matt "Tigger" Tolbert, Trevor "Error-boy" Plouffe, and Luke "Fireworks" Hughes.

Tolbert has the most major league experience, and, when spring training started, was the one everyone figured would come north. I call him "Tigger" because he's one of those guys who never stops bouncing around; seriously, have you ever seen him chew gum? It's cute for about ten minutes, then it's trying. I have a feeling Gardy feels the same way too. According to LaVelle E Neal of the STrib, he's still got a minor-league option left, so he's not completely a shoo-in. But he is reasonably fast and can pinch run whenever Jim Thome gets on base late in games.

Plouffe wasn't really impressive the few games he did spend in the major leagues (.146 BA! Yikes!). And he's been having a horrible spring. He's committed a team-leading 6 errors. And many of them seem to happen when Joe Nathan is on the mound. Not cool, Trev. Not cool at all. It's really hard to have a ton of confidence in him.

And then we have Hughes. When spring training started, he was just one of the lucky minor-leaguers who was invited to the big league camp. No one really expected him to do much more than get some experience. But he had different ideas. Seems like he hits a home run every other at-bat. It might be tempting to bring him up, but I'm not sure he's ready. Plus, he has a history of being injury-prone.

So, yeah, kind of slim pickings. Add to this that I'm not entirely comfortable with the starting middle-infielders. Nishioka will probably be ok, but he's still getting acclimated to MLB. But Gardy handed shortstop -- the position of leadership -- to Alexi Casilla. He could be brilliant; he could be brutal. No one knows. While I hope he'll be ok -- good grief, he's had enough experience by now -- I'm just not confident. I just hope he is.

Ok. So I doubt things are as bleak for the middle infield as I'm making them seem. But I won't be surprised if these guys give me indigestion just a little. I miss Nicky Punto.

And I need new shoes.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


This is my annual tribute to my dad who passed away this week in 1995. I re-run it every year because I miss him very much.

Sixteen years ago this week, the man who taught me to love baseball, my dad, died of colon cancer.

My dad was a great guy. He was brilliant - he knew something about absolutely everything. He had a wry sense of humor, and he told the best stories. He loved reading the funnies and completing the crossword puzzle every day, but he always read the box scores first.

He taught me many useful things like cooking and driving. But he firmly believed that every kid needed two skills: playing cribbage and scoring baseball games. Those are good skills to have and I do them pretty well. He took me to a few games at the old Met Stadium. His favorite player was Roy Smalley, while I had a mad crush on Butch Wynegar. He also took me to an exhibition game when the Dome first opened and the roof leaked - the poor left fielder got wet.

My favorite memories are of summer evenings when we would go down to the Dairy Queen - the kind where you had to walk up to the window to order- and sit in his beat-up old maroon truck in the glow of the yellow lights that were supposed to keep the mosquitoes away but didn't, and listen the Herb Carneal call the Twins game on the radio. He'd almost always get a chocolate - NOT hot fudge - sundae with Spanish peanuts. I'd mix it up and get whatever struck my fancy, but my favorite was a dipped cone with sprinkles. We would do this about two or three times a week. The radio in his truck got better reception than the radio in the house, so I think we did it more for the baseball than for the ice cream.

Baseball games weren't on TV very often, but I distinctly remember that he made me watch Hank Aaron's 715th homerun. I'm glad he did.

I regret that I didn't spend the two Twins' World Series wins with him - I was in college in '87 and at a family reunion with my husband's side of the family in '91.

I think he'd like the current corps of Twins players. He was a "do it the right way on a budget" kind of guy.


I write this tribute because I want to do my part to reduce the occurrence of colon cancer so other folks don't have to write tributes for their loved ones. March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and is up to 90% survivable if treated in its earliest stages.

Please take care of your colons. Get screened regularly (it's not that bad -- really). And make sure your loved ones, especially those in high-risk groups, take care of theirs.

If you'd like to do more, consider participating in the "Get Your Rear in Gear" 5k run/walk. I plan to participate (walk) this year. Visit the Colon Cancer Coalition for more information.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Leaving Injury Island

I'm not an athlete. Clearly. So I can only imagine what it feels like for a competitive soul to sit there and recover from an injury while the rest of his team plays. The itching to get out there and perform must be nearly unbearable. Even missing a few days must suck; baseball players play baseball because they want to play baseball, not watch it. Being on the bench while healing must feel like being on a deserted island. A nasty, mean, ugly, miserable island.

Hearing about all the players dropping like flies during Spring Training kind of bummed me out. It got so bad one day that the Twins had to get special permission from the commissioner's office because they couldn't come up with the required five regulars to make a road trip. Not to mention, I was still bummed out about the hold-overs from last season.

So, it's been great to read accounts about guys, one-by-one, taking positive steps off that lonely island.

First, Joe Nathan has been showing great promise, with no setbacks, coming back from Tommy John surgery last year. All reports indicate that his velocity is good and his command is improving.

And then, the big news, Justin Morneau took his place at first base for the first time since July. If he feels ok over the next few days, it might be the beginning of the end of that nasty concussion. Although, I must say that I rather enjoyed watching my Twitter feed as he took the field -- Gardy had Chris Parmalee listed on the roster at first base, the sneaky devil. Not that I ever want Gardy to do that again...

Delmon Young played his first game after being out with turf toe. He walked in his two at-bats, but he ran from first to home reportedly without favoring the foot. This is encouraging.

The ginormous crater in the bottom of Michael Cuddyer's foot left from the wart removal is said to be healed over. Assuming all he feels is a little tenderness, it won't be long until he can run around on it. (If you haven't seen the picture of the said crater, look here for the photo he uploaded to Twitter -- not for those with weak constitutions.)

Joe Mauer is still out, but we keep hearing reassurances that he's just being cautious and taking things easy. As long he's ready on Opening Day, it's all good.

Even all the other minor nicks and bumps (Fransico's shoulder, Baker's elbow, Alexi's ankle, etc.) are kind of taking care themselves as the players shake off the off-season rust.

So, here's hoping that by April 1, 2011, that stupid Injury Island is truly deserted and all our guys are ready to play.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quick Notes: Mar. 2, 2011

The Spring Training games have started. It's still kind of early to really know much about anything, but it's certainly fun listening to live radio broadcasts of live pitching, batting, and fielding.


Justin Morneau is making good progress from his head injury, but he's still waiting to be cleared to play in games. Even though steady progress is good news, fans are still quite concerned. We all remember how Corey Koskie's career was cut short due to concussion symptoms, and no one wants a repeat of that. Concussions are so hard to predict and understand; there is no way to put a timetable on it. It is, after all, a bruise to the brain, and every bruise -- and every brain for that matter -- heals differently. Fans are also concerned about who would play if Justin can't. I think Cuddyer does just fine -- he's no superstar, but he's serviceable -- but there is no other depth at the position.


Speaking of Michael Cuddyer, he returned to the Twin Cities to have a pesky wart on his foot removed. He figured now would be a better time than, say, April. I've had nasty plantar warts, and let me tell you, they're painful. And gross. He said that there is a 60% chance that it's gone. Yeah, that's the thing about warts; they're like dandelions -- the root runs very deep, and if you don't get it all, it comes back. With attitude.


Speaking of feet, Delmon Young still hasn't played because he's got turf toe. Seriously? Turf toe? He's been in Fort Myers, what, fifteen minutes? And they don't even have turf. Actually, turf toe is pretty painful and isn't as silly as it sounds. He must've been working hard preparing for Spring Training, and over-did things a bit. I'm sure it's sore, but it shouldn't be too serious.


Joe Mauer had some sort of lubricant injected in his knee. I imagine it was the equivalent of the Tin Man's oil can. A couple of shots of 3-in-1, and he's good to go. Some folks are wondering if this should indicate that maybe he shouldn't be catching. I don't think it's a big deal. He had cartilage removed from that knee, so it stands to reason that it would need some maintenance every 3,000 miles.


If Nishioka turns out to be a good player, I think he'll quickly become one of my favorites. He seems to be a really fun guy. And it sounds like he and Alexi are developing ways to communicate with each other. Dan Gladden said something about that they're using their mouths to indicate who has it -- mouth open for one, mouth closed for the other. I just hope neither one of them suffers a serious head cold and has to breathe with his mouth open.We'd all hate a rhinovirus-induced collision.


Gardy announced that he fully expects to give Brian Duensing a spot in the starting rotation. Good for Brian; I kind of like him. With Liriano and Pavano already locked in, that leaves three guys for two remaining spots. I've gotta believe Baker gets a spot. So that leaves Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn to duke it out. Personally, I think Slowey's pitching style is more fitting for starting and Blackie would be all right in the bull pen. But, we'll have to see how things shake out in Spring Training. Or, they could just play rock-paper-scissors for the job.